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If asked to name the most influential album of my life, without a doubt, I’d name Paul Simon’s Graceland. I know it better than any canon of music. I was about to start 4th grade, and it was one of two cassettes my dad kept in his car. I even wrote the beginning stages of my novel about it.

Tonight on A&E, the making of Graceland was on tv. I knew Ladysmith Black Mambazo was present in the album. As an adult, I am now aware that Apartheid existed in 1985 when it was made. But I had no idea the political issues that went in to my favorite album until tonight.

Even though none of Graceland’s tracks show up tonight, I as usual, was moved to tears hearing Paul and his three different sets of South African musicians in tonight’s documentary. I don’t think I can rank my favorite songs from the album. Each one, I swear to everything, has its own spot in my heart, conscience, and memory.

What’s disappointing is despite how much I could talk about the documentary until the cows come home, I cannot ignore tonight’s songs. Or their artists for that matter. Perhaps there’s a connection, perhaps there isn’t. I have seen Chicago and Weezer in concert. The Beastie Boys defined music for my generation. Weezer brought me into adulthood. And even though I didn’t fully embrace Sam Cooke until a few years ago, he too changed music. I have always known the song “Another Saturday Night” but until I dissected the lyrics tonight, I had no idea of the racial undertones. Just like the making of Graceland. Perhaps because I have been sheltered. Perhaps because even though racism still very much exists today, I was spared much of it because of when and where I grew up.

Unfortunately tonight, I couldn’t listen to the songs because my computer is acting up again. I currently have no sound apparently. Which is too bad because I haven’t heard many of these tracks in years. They aren’t in my current loop of music, so to speak. But that doesn’t predict their importance.

I couldn’t figure out which photo to use tonight. Nothing felt correct. However, Graceland is one cyclical album–it’s hard to tell where it begins and where it ends. That’s the reasoning behind the image of a spiral staircase. The album will never age to me. As Lou Rawls says, “Music is the greatest communication in the world. Even if people don’t understand the language that you’re singing in, they still know good music when they hear it.” These are the roots of the rhythm, and the roots of the rhythm remain.

Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is–Chicago


Merry Christmas Baby–Lou Rawls

Girls–Beastie Boys

Another Saturday Night–Sam Cooke